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When Using the Tor Browser Becomes Illegal?

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The Tor Browser is a popular browser designed to provide anonymity to users. Since it is an excellent anonymity tool, people often use it to access .onion sites to keep their identities and location hidden. Among all other .onion websites, people widely access the dark web. The Tor browser’s credibility is questioned for its association with the dark web

This is undeniable that accessing the dark web via the Tor browser for several legitimate purposes. But at the same time, it attracts illegal activities. According to the RAND study report, 57% of dark websites support unlawful activities. The country you live in and the laws out there also determine whether the Tor browser is legal.

So, Tor becomes illegal only by how and where it is used. This article intends to inform the readers about when using the Tor browser becomes illegal and some research evidence. So, if you want to know more, keep reading. 

When Using the Tor Browser Becomes Illegal?

The Tor Browser itself is not illegal. Even if you use the browser to access the dark web, it is not unlawful. What’s illicit is some of the activities that occur on the dark web, and when you use the Tor browser to carry out such activities, it becomes illegal. For example, websites on the dark web sell illicit drugs, weapons, malware, stolen credit card numbers, and accessing such stuff via the Tor browser makes its use illegal. 

Moreover, if you belong to an oppressive regime like China or Russia, where the government bans using anonymity tools, it is illegal to use the Tor browser.

In contrast, several sites on the dark web violate no laws and are safe to use. For instance, blogs, forums, and social media sites that cover a wide range of topics, including sports and politics, are not at all illegal to use.

At present, more than 65,000 URLs that end with .onion exist on the Tor network. Computer security firm Hyperion Gray 2018 conducted a study on the dark web. They revealed that 10% of the cataloged websites help communication via chatrooms and forums. These roles related to communication are considered legal in society. 

Moreover, another research firm Terbium Labs examines 400 randomly selected .onion sites. They concluded that more than half of all the dark web domains are legal.

Countries Where Using Tor is Censored

Some countries banned the use of the Tor browser because of its connection to the dark web. These countries include:

  • Armenia
  • China
  • Iran
  • Turkey
  • Mongolia
  • Egypt
  • South Africa
  • Lithuania
  • Guyana

How Is Tor Being Used Illegally? (In the Light of Research)

The dark web threats are growing with each passing day. All this is driving cybercrimes to set new hacking, phishing, and ransomware records. For this reason, in the last three years, dark web activity has increased by 300%. All this has resulted in increased pressure on the cybersecurity teams.

Tor browser protects from targeted ads, making the dark web a center for criminal activities. Some of the most prevalent illegal activities that occur on the dark web include:

  • Human trafficking
  • Sharing exploitative content
  • Drug dealing
  • Selling stolen credentials. 

Even some websites support Nazis, white supremacists, and other extremists groups.

In 2016, two researchers, Thomas Rid and Daniel Moore, attempted to determine the intensity of illegal activities on the dark web. They detected 5,205 websites, approximately 48% of which contain no content. 

The top 423 websites were involved in trading or producing illegal drugs. Over half of these appeared to be illicit activities that host several illegal activities. While 327 websites supported financial crimes like counterfeiting, trading stolen credit cards or accounts, and money laundering. 

The researchers also found 140 sites that support extremist ideology or terrorist violence. Seventeen sites claim to facilitate violence. The other 122 sites contain children and violent material obtained without the participant’s permission. A marketplace that trades hacking tools and weapons was also discovered with all this. 

Other Dangers While Using Tor?

The Tor browser is used to surf the web anonymously. But as the Tor browser doesn’t provide online protection and its affiliation with the dark web, it poses some threats and dangers. It can cause privacy leaks or risks your online safety. Multiple incidents in the past have shown how Tor is unsafe to use. 

Like, the FBI compromised Tor to view which sites of the dark web people use. The FBI cracked into Tor with the help of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University who paid $1 million for their work.

In a massive raid of the Dark web in 2013, the FBI took off the Silk Road and arrested its operator. Also, they seized over 400 black market hidden sites, and 19 other people got arrested during this raid. 

Things don’t end here. In 2012, an FBI contractor contacted an Italian Hacking company to create spyware. Later they can be used to monitor the Tor browser on an infected device.

Similarly, in August 2013, a Freedom Hosting service provider went offline after the FBI sought a 28-year-old Irish man. The man was booked for charges relating to promoting and distributing online material related to child abuse.

Moreover, since Tor doesn’t provide sufficient protection, hackers can quickly launch attacks. This goes especially when you’re surfing the dark web. The web pages you visit via the Tor browser can have viruses, malware, spyware, or other malicious content embedded within them. 

Hence, it is recommended to practice some security tips to use the Tor browser safely.

Other Interesting Stats About the Dark Web

Here are some other shocking facts about the dark web that proves its stance for being illegal:

  • 60% of the information on the dark web can harm organizations. 
  • In 2020, the dark web added more than 22 billion new records. 
  • Approximately 65% of the criminal gangs depend on the spear-phishing technique powered by the dark web to spread attacks. 
  • Surprisingly 25,927,476 passwords that belonged to employees were available on the dark web.
  • More than 20% of users on the dark web search for the bad actors that can target a specific user or client data.
  • 70% of the dark web forum contains hiring posts for those looking for hackers to hack websites.
  • Almost 7% of the forums on the dark web posts ads for hackers looking for some work.
  • The cybercrime gangs pay 10-20% to the boss gang on each successful job.
  • About 90% of posts on the dark web are from people finding someone for cybercrimes. 
  • 6.7% of the Tor users use the network to connect to .onion sites to hide their locations to carry out illegal activities.

Final Thoughts

The US Navy designed the Tor browser for anonymity and private communications. The use of the Tor browser is legal, depending on the purpose you are using it for. If you use it to access the dark web for illegal activities or use it against your country’s law, it becomes unlawful. As long as you use the Tor browser for legitimate purposes, it is legal, but it is forbidden to use it for any illegal purpose.

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